March 21st, 2012, 19:45 PM
Firefox Takes Privacy Lead With HTTPS By Default
Mozilla has fixed a Firefox "bug" that allowed information about users' searches to be easily observed.
The "bug," reported to Mozilla by privacy researcher Christopher Soghoian over a year ago, is in fact a feature: Web browsers rely on unprotected HTTP connections for Web search, thereby allowing anyone with access to Deep Packet Inspection tools, like ISPs or governments, to monitor and censor search data.
In addition, Web browsers using HTTP connections leak search queries through the "referrer header"--the keywords entered as search queries are transmitted to the destination website when a link returned in a search results list is clicked. Websites receiving search traffic happily collect this information because it's valuable for marketers to know the search terms that brought visitors to their sites.
Having begun tests of HTTPS search in 2010, Google last October said it would relay search queries over encrypted HTTPS connections for all signed-in users. In so doing, the company is shielding Internet packets from prying eyes and preventing the transmission of search query keywords to websites. But the percentage of Google searches conducted by signed-in users remains quite small: Google engineer Matt Cutts has suggested that less than 10% of Google searches come from those signed-in to their Google Accounts.
Mozilla has gone a step further, enabling HTTPS by default in Firefox, thereby making privacy protection available to all users of its browser.
Full story: InformationWeek